A short trip to Hamburg is generally a visit at the customary attractions such as Lake Alster, the port, St. Michaelis Church, the shopping streets and in the evening – the red-light district. The fact that an impressive river, the Elbe, crosses Hamburg usually does not inspire a special impression.
However, if we decide to stay longer than one day in the city, hiking along the river bank should be considered. A beautiful 14 mile long hiking trail called “the Elbe path” starts at the neighborhood Oevelgoenne, and continues west along the north bank of the river, ending at the suburb of Wedel in the west.
It’s recommended to reach Oevelgoenne aboard a ferry boat. A ferry line starts at the Landungsbruecken, the famous floating docks of the St. Pauli neighborhood. They are located within the Port of Hamburg, near the entrance to the old Elbe Tunnel.
Original pure sands
The ferry passes on its way north near the dock 17 of the giant shipyard Blohm & Voss, founded in 1877. It manufactures all kinds of boats – from yachts to warships.
Later we pass by the beach of Hamburg, called the”Elbe Beach.” Waves crashing softly to the sand remind us exotic beaches shown in the movies. Staying here on a clear day of summer is not a bad idea.
The beach was open to the public 1973 in Oevelgoenne. The sand is not of the kind imported, like in Berlin, for example, but a pure natural sand which was carried by the tides of the river Elbe from the North Sea, 62 miles away.
At the first stop, we get down. The place is close to the fish market in Altona, west of St. Pauli. Mass of residents and tourists come every Sunday to see the fish auctions, which take place at 5 AM. There is no point going there during the rest of the week.
The man in black pants
We start making our way on foot, on the beach. As mentioned, we start in Oevelgoenne. Previously mostly sailors and fishermen lived in the neighborhood. Several houses, which were built in the 18th and 19th century, are still seen here. These are small family houses, with gardens of roses and lilac, and here and there with a boat anchorage.
On weekends many tourists come here. The width of the river near Oevelgoenne is 0.3 mile. The sandy beach here is wider than before, and many residents arrive at the place during the summer weekends for a picnic or barbecue, or just to relax.
Not far away, in the middle of the Elbe, there is a round buoy. Someone in black pants and a white shirt, is standing there motionless for hours, watching the ships passing by. It takes time until it turns out to be a statue. It’s an oak sculpture, made by an artist called Stephan Balkenhol, whose sculptures adorn Hamburg. Balkenhol likes dressing many of his statues in black trousers and white shirts.
The old immigrant from Sweden
Shortly after Oevelgoenne, the “Old Swede” is sitting on the banks of the Elbe. Actually it’s a giant granite boulder swept 1.7-1.8 billion years ago from southern Sweden to Hamburg, and placed deep at the bottom of the river. In 1999 it pulled out as part of deepening the river. The mighty rock weighs of 217 tons of rock and is 66 feet in diameter. This is the biggest rock in northern Germany.
If we wish to take a break, we may do so at the beach restaurant Elbkate, not far away from the old Swede. We may sit at one of the outdoor tables and watch the huge container ships, passing by slowly in the waters of the Elbe.
The river is hidden in many places behind the high bushes, but even then the trickling of water is heard beating on the beach, especially when a ship makes waves on its way to the port. The look of the area changes suddenly, and here and there it’s similar to a beach along the ocean. Large quantities of slate stones and shells are scattered on the sand..
Where the hell is the Devil’s Bridge?
The Jenisch-Park on this part of the Elbe bank, is considered one of Hamburg’s most beautiful gardens. At the center of the park Janisch’s home is located. It was built in the first half of the 19th century (Address: Baron-Voght-Str. 50). The house is now an art museum with temporary exhibitions, mainly of works from the 19th century. It’s first owner was Martin Janisch, a rich merchant. It was designed by the famous Prussian architect Karl Schinkel.
Returning to the Elbe path, and walking a little further we reach a marina called, Teufelbrueck, the Devil’s Bridge in Germanck. Long ago one of the Elbe’s bridges stood here. We may take a break at the local restaurant..
Walking further along the Elbe path we soon arrive at the Blankenese neighborhood, a medieval fishing village. There are still several fishermen living in the houses, which are covered by thatched roofs. However, these ancient houses have been joined by modern ones, built in modern styles..
On top of the staircase maze
At this section of of the path, the beach is right near the houses’ doorways. Whoever lives here is only a few yards close to a free summer vacation. Unfortunately, sometimes during the winter the river floods the area. The river gets wider here to 1.5 mile. A lighthouse painted red and white shows the ships where to pass.
We end our hiking route in Blankenese. We may now use the public transportation to go back downtown, or walk up the nearby Stairs Quarter (Treppenviertel, in German), a maze of about 40 flights of stairs connecting picturesque winding alleys. Behind every staircase cafes, pubs and restaurants are hiding, overlooking the river.The neighborhood is quite complicated for orientation, so using a map would be a good idea. In any case, you always can take a bus straight to the center of Hamburg.